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on April 4, 1998
On Sunday, February 8th, psychologist and economist Julian L. Simon succumbed to a heart attack in Maryland. It is difficult to overstate the damage his death will cause the world debate on overpopulation, natural resources, and the environment. Dr. Simon's prolific and energetic mind gave rise to fourteen books and countless papers and lectures, dedicated to overthrowing the dogma that underlies so much of today's environmental discourse.
Simon, still considered a maverick after thirty years of relentless data-gathering, impeccable empirical work, and well-thought out conclusions, questioned the unquestionable. He maintained that the earth is in good shape by every conceivable measure, and that the environmental situation continues to improve each year. Every index of human happiness - food prices, net income, infant mortality, life expectancy, disease rates - has steadily improved. He documented those claims with reams of data, culminating in his 1996 tour de force The State of Humanity. It is absolutely comprehensive, and contains enough obscure data to make the most jaded Trivial Pursuit fan squirm (if you ever want to read about the average lower-class Brazilian's annual starch intake, look no further).
Constantly vilified by his critics, Simon always had a small and devoted following. He was dubbed 'the Doomslayer' by Wired magazine for his repeated skewering of environmental fanatics and 'Birkenstock Puritans.' Perhaps the most memorable episode happened in 1980. Simon wrote exasperatedly in an article that he was sick and tired of environmentalists' insistence that large-scale natural starvation was right around the corner. He invited them to put their money where their mouths were. Paul Ehrlich, the influential author of The Population Bomb and predictor of worldwide famine and resource scarcity for the 1980s, stepped up to the plate. Simon invited Ehrlich and any of his colleagues to choose any five non-government-controlled resources, purchase $1000 worth in any combination, and specify a later date. If the resource bundle went up in price (implicating that they had become more scarce), then Simon would have to pay the difference. If they went down in price, signifying greater abundance, then Simon would receive the difference. Ehrlich and company jumped at this proposition, writing that they were looking forward to cashing in 'before other greedy people see this opportunity.' They chose five heavy metals used as inputs for industry, and specified ten years as the time to wait. And thus it occurred that Ehrlich and his colleagues wrote a check to Julian Simon for $576.80 in 1990. When Ehrlich claimed that it was a fluke, Simon offered to repeat the bet on the same terms, with a new bundle and a new time period. Ehrlich refused, and no one ever stepped up to take his place.
In 1996 Simon updated his classic The Ultimate Resource, in which he claimed that the human mind and human creativity are our best bet to overcome the world's problems. Thus, it's not possible to have too many people. Doomsayers, Simon argues, think of people as merely mouths to feed, rather than individuals with lives, dreams, and ideas. They lament population growth, never once thinking that one of those children might grow up to invent a more advanced farming technique, a cure for AIDS, or a way to construct cheap, safe housing. For the same reasons, Simon argues passionately against immigration restrictions. The only way immigrants can harm their new home countries is by imposing a new drain on the welfare state, and the data show that natives almost always take greater advantage of social programs than immigrants do.
Today, the Unabomber's atrocities find an excuse in his radical environmentalism. Children learn in school that the world would have been better off without them, and that ecological Armageddon is right around the corner. Al Gore writes of a grim future and the need for a 'wrenching' social re-organization to cope with the coming age of scarcity. Julian Simon, conversely, spent his life providing an accessible and empirically sound body of work that challenges the environmentalist agenda. Environmentalists should read his work, to see numerous examples of good science as well as to think long and hard about some of their most cherished and reliable beliefs. Teachers should read it, since they handle and assist the ultimate resource in its earliest stages. But all of us should, at the very least, recognize that the environmental debate has two sides, and that Julian Simon spent his life fighting long, hard, and nobly for his.
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on October 20, 1999
Now in a second edition, and what a treat that is, because now the unquenchable optimism and sound forcasting of the first volume is backed up by decades of confirmatory data. Resources of all kinds--foods, metals, energy--are more abundant and cheaper, life expectancy is up, and so is the worldwide standard of living. Why is this so, in spite of the dire warnings (The Population Bomb, Famine: 1975!) of the latest crop of doomsayers? Read the book and find out. Find out also, why these trends show no signs of turning around--why the world will be even richer and more prosperous in the next century.
A reader, in an earlier review, suggests that Simon's ideas are "ridiculous" (in spite of the fact that he has been proven right, time and time again, and the doomsayers have to come out with new books every few years, adjusting forward their predictions of a doomsday that never comes), and goes on to say some very stupid things about "limits to the food supply." Go read them, then consider--that review, like most doomsayers, admits startling progress in increasing food yields, then assumes that such progress is over, or nearly so (six millennia of agricultural advance to the contrary). Why? In the first hundred pages of this book, Simon details cutting-edge technologies being employed commercially _today_ that could raise worldwide food production by orders of magnitude. But the eco-tastrophe crowd keeps talking about "closed systems," in spite of the fact that every new technological innovation keeps making the "system" effectively larger and larger.
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on February 7, 2012
The Ultimate Resource 2 is an optimistic review of people's ability to come up with solutions to most of the world's problems. This book and its slim companion, It's Getting Better All the Time, are excellent testaments to the power of the human mind. Backed up with solid data and chock full of charts, they illustrate the improvements (and innovations in particular) that humans have made to their environment and will likely make in the future. This text is highly recommended. My only regret is Professor Simon is no longer around to fight the good fight although thanks to this and his other books there are many others who are continuing to do so.
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on December 12, 2013
What a joy to read! Dr. Simon's work is a much needed viewpoint in today's world. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a non-biased look at the state of our world's resources including energy, food, minerals, and a very awesome resource, the wonderful people who inhabit our world (i.e. population). The historical truth presented in this book will astound you! The future actually looks great!
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on December 10, 1999
This book is a bombshell. It remorselessly devastates the current ecology doom mongers' shibboleths: population density, resource depletion, pollution, deforestation and species loss. Julian Simon was vilified in his life by the vocal ecology campaigners (special and dishonourable mention should be made of the egregious Paul Erhlich, he of the 'Population Bomb' and other wholly fictitious disasters). Why did Simon attract this venom from people who dub themselves 'scientists'? Simply this: he dared to challenge the orthodoxy that human beings are an ecological cancer that is busy raping the planet and drowning in its own filth. How did he do it? Not with invective, selective quotation and flat-out lies, like the 'deep ecologists' or the Zero Population Growth fanatics, but with facts - cold, hard facts and lots of them. He pointed out that the only economic variable that can properly describe the scarcity of a resource in the absence of full knowledge of its true abundance is price. And he points out that the prices of all resources have been falling relentlessly. This observation led to the well-known $1000 bet with the aforementioned Paul Erhlich, effectively a futures contract, which saw the sadly unchastened Erhlich hand over nearly $600 to Simon. Simon's model for resource usage is that scarcity temporarily drives the price of a commodity up, at which point it is either used more efficiently, or a suitable substitute is discovered. After all, the sole economic value of a commodity is its utility. We value copper for its high conductance. But with the increasing substitution of fibre optics (made from sand - even the environmentalists would concede there is no imminent shortage of this) copper has declined in usefulness, and its price has dropped.
Simon acknowledges that the notion that resources are not finite in any meaningful sense runs counter to intuition, and then shows with a host of examples that intuition is a poor guide to formulating economic and social policy. The book is packed with graphs, charts and tables, all bolstering his point. Perhaps it is this that explains the fury that his ideas received from the radical ecologists - facts are indisputable, and do not fit with the coercive political agenda of those who wish to circumscribe our reproductive capabilities.
Throughout the whole book, a sense of Julian Simon's love of people can be felt. He asks who are we, beneficiaries of the greatest gift of all, life, to decide from our privileged position who shall have life in the future? Pervading the anti-growth movement is the miasma of racism, as evinced by this extract from The Population Bomb, quoted in The Ultimate Resource: "I came to understand the population explosion emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi...The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping, people visiting, arguing and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people." You can almost hear it: "my dear, the natives, they were everywhere. Beastly, smelly people, little better than rats". The fact that these "human pollutants" have just as much right to existence as any one of us seems to escape the population doomsayers. That they might have children, and love and cherish them just as we in the West love and cherish our children is acknowledged by Simon.
The Ultimate Resource that Simon refers to is human beings, the only resource that appears to be becoming more scarce, as shown by the fact that we are having to pay more for people's services.
Julian Simon's death has left us with a gaping hole in the line of defense against the ecological bunco artists. I hope that someone of similar eminence and eloquence will step up to fill that gap.
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on July 15, 2013
Julian Simon has always put the hype and hyperbole of our world in perspective and this book is 700+ pages of crisp, accurate data shooting holes in most of the verbal balloons released by environmentalists, politicians and other cranks. Actually, that is just the first 400 pages (I'm a slow reader). I have read many things by Simon and I don't expect to be disappointed by the last 300 pages.
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on April 11, 2001
Simon's premise is simple: direct measures of material, human well-being correlate positively with population growth and there is no theoretical upper limit. Simply put, things are getting better and better, not in spite of population growth, but because of it! The reason is simple as well: the "ultimate resource" is human imagination and we will not only never run out of it, but we will get more of it as population increases.
This sounds crazy (and I thought Simon was a kook the first time I heard of him), but Simon lays out his theory in detail and shows the overwhelming empirical evidence in favor of it. Simon is not a lone nut, either. The scholarly work in the field of population economics solidly supports his view, even if he may overstate his case sometimes.
This is an update of the original book, so Simon has a chance to answer the critics of the first edition. The poor quality of the critics' arguments, along with their ad hominem attacks, reveals why environmentalist doomsaying is a sad, pathetic, quasi-religion that bitterly opposes examining the facts.
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on February 20, 2016
Read this book. It debunks the small-world, we-are-running-out-of-resources collectivist blather of the PC liberal fascists who are the unwitting dupes of the NWO. Understand that human creativity is, and has always been, the ultimate resource. If you like this book, I suggest that you follow it with The Science of Christian Economy by LaRouche.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon February 19, 2016
"The Ultimate Resource 2" is an updated version of "The Ultimate Resource." They are the most memorable works of a great thinker, whose untimely death in 1998 cut short the brilliant career of an individual with an exceptional ability to predict the future. Going against the common wisdom if his time,Julian Simon argued that what was best for our future was more, not fewer people. Human brainpower is an irreplaceable asset.

"The Ultimate Resource 2" is not just about the need for more people. It discusses many other resources as well, including our mineral resources, water, forests, and the like. Although he has consistently been proved right in his claim that we are not running out of resources.

To take one example. When I was a teen in the 1960s the doomsayers were predicting that we would run out of oil within 30 years, given current rates of consumption. Fifty years later rates of consumption had increased dramatically and not only are we not running out of oil but there is such a glut that the price of oil has dropped dramatically (as of February 2016).

Why was common "knowledge" so wrong? The truth is that planet contains far more than enough oil for the foreseeable future. It was just that the projections were based on certain presuppositions. For example, certain technologies were currently too expensive to be economically viable. Others had not yet been invented.

Today, with the procedure of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which accesses the oil and gas trapped in shale, Simon's predictions have been vindicated. What Simon said about oil is just one of many predictions in "The Ultimate Resource 2" that has come to pass.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon February 13, 2013
"The Ultimate Resource" and its updated version "The Ultimate Resource 2" are the most memorable works of a great thinker of our age, whose untimely death in 1998 cut short the brilliant career of an individual with an exceptional ability to predict the future. Going against the common wisdom that the burgeoning population of the twentieth century was a major problem requiring immediate measures to curtail if disaster was not about to strike, Julian Simon argued that what was best for our future was more, not fewer people. Human brainpower, to state his message in a nutshell, is an irreplaceable asset.

Although Simon is best known for this thesis, his book is not just about the need for more people. It discusses in detail many other resources as well, including our mineral resources, water, forests, and the like. Although he consistently goes against the common view that we are running out of resources, he has consistently been proved right.

A case in point: Twenty years ago, when I began teaching a college-level applied ethics class, the anthology I used had a section on population and its relationship to dwindling natural resources. The articles I read from that anthology weren’t persuasive. I came across a copy of "The Ultimate Resource." I read it cover to cover. I was convinced. The example upon which I focused in my classes was oil. I noted that back in the 1960s, when I was a teen, the doomsayers were predicting that we would run out of oil within 30 years, given current rates of consumption. Thirty years later rates of consumption had increased dramatically and we still weren't close to running out of oil.

I learned from Simon why this was. Our planet contained far more than enough oil for the foreseeable future. It was just that certain technologies were currently too expensive to be economically viable, but a day would come when they would be. Every semester for years I told my classes that someday a technology would be invented to release the huge quantities of oil and natural gas trapped in shale formations. I took this on faith because Simon, whom I trusted, had told me so.

Today, with the procedure of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") making the gas and oil from shale readily accessible, I feel vindicated. Or, rather, Simon has been vindicated. What he said about oil is just one of many predictions in "The Ultimate Resource 2" that has come to pass.
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